Philex clears hurdle in Silangan mine in Mindanao

MANILA, Philippines – Philex Mining Corporation, the country’s biggest gold producer, on Tuesday, May 17, finally received final government approval for the feasibility study on the $1.2-billion Silangan project on the island of Mindanao.

Philex told the Philippine Stock Exchange that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), through the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, has issued its final approval of the amended mining project feasibility study for a surface mining method, in connection with the $1.2-billion project of Silangan Mindanao Mining Company, Incorporated.

"The process is we are still doing peer review on the feasibility study. It is a standard that someone will do the feasibility study, while others should peer review it; We expect the peer review to be finished by the end of the year," Philex Mining president and CEO Eulalio Austin Jr said on the sidelines of the firm’s annual stockholders’ meeting in Pasig City.

"Once it is peer reviewed, then we will study the financing and look for partners to fund the project," Austin added.

The company’s chairman, Manuel V. Pangilinan, said last year that Philex is looking at a "70% borrowing, 30% equity" funding mix for the total project cost of Silangan, which is about "$1 billion to $1.2 billion."

The Silangan mine in Surigao del Norte province has estimated reserves of 5 billion pounds of copper and 9 million ounces of gold in its 25-year mine life.

This represents Philex’s biggest prospective revenue driver after a mine-waste spill in mid-2012 shuttered its main Padcal mine.

The Silangan project is seen to start "production in 2018" and become a key revenue generator for Philex after its Padcal mine closes in 2022, Pangilinan added.

Padcal mine could be extended anew

But in a chance interview, Austin said the lifespan of Padcal could be extended again "depending on the discovery of the exploration the company has started a year ago."

"We have that purpose of not abandoning Padcal until we fully explore the area. If there would be an ore body that could be mined economically, then we will go beyond 2022," Austin added.

The company said drilling at its Bumolo porphyry copper-gold deposit, adjacent to its Padcal mine in Benguet, is still ongoing. Austin said the land area of Bumolo is about 4 hectares.

"For Padcal, we continue to manage our costs because metal prices are volatile; but we expect to hit the projected production that we are doing," Austin said after the company’s general meeting.

The Philex president hinted that there is another project the firm wants to explore in the vicinity of Padcal. "But as of the moment, we are just focusing on Bumolo," he added. – Rappler.com